Exercise Science Jobs

female athlete running on a treadmill

One field that is closely related to that of nutrition and dietetics is exercise science. If you would like to focus more on the movement part of health promotion and wellness, a career in exercise science might be perfect for you. There are a wide variety of exercise science jobs that are attainable with an associate degree or higher. Here, we will discuss some of the most popular jobs in the realm of exercise science. 

Physical Education Teacher

Physical education teachers, also called gym teachers, phys. ed or PE teachers, generally work in the K-12 school system. They program, plan and instruct students in lessons and sports to improve their physical fitness and overall health. Physical education teachers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health and fitness area, as well as teaching licensure or certification to allow them to teach in a particular state. 

Requirements for teaching licensure/certification vary from state to state, but usually involve passing examinations on the national or state level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical education teachers at the elementary level earn a mean annual wage of $67,080, while those at the secondary level earn a mean annual wage of $69,530.

Recreational Therapist

Recreational therapists assist clients with movement-based therapy. They plan and direct recreational activities for individuals and groups in hospitals, long-term-care centers, recreation centers and other institutions. Activities include games, sports, and social activities.  helps clients who have illnesses, injuries or other disabilities and need therapy that is movement-based.  

Recreation therapists usually have a bachelor’s degree and may hold specialized national certification such as Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). State licensure for recreational therapists is required in New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah (circa 2022). The BLS says that as of May 2021, recreational therapists earn a mean annual wage of $53,900. 

Fitness Trainer and Personal Trainer

Fitness trainers, also known as fitness instructors, may work leading group exercise activities in health and fitness centers, medical centers, community centers, long-term care facilities, and other institutions. Personal trainers work in similar settings in a one-on-one relationship with clients, helping them reach goals of weight loss, muscle building, and improved fitness through developing individual plans for them. 

Fitness trainers and personal trainers usually do not need a degree, but may seek certification such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Personal Trainer Certification, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer credential, or the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT) Certified Personal Trainer credential. The BLS says that as of May 2021, fitness trainers and personal trainers earn a mean annual wage of $45,870. 

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist works with clients who have physical injuries. Working one-on-one with clients, they focus on the recuperation of a client’s basic physical movement following an injury. Physical therapists must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. They must also seek state licensure, and may pursue clinical specialization through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, if desired. 

The BLS notes that physical therapists earn a mean annual wage of $95,620. 

Exercise Physiologist

An exercise physiologist works in medical and long-term-care facilities to help people recovering from illness, injury or disease through movement and exercise programs. A bachelor’s degree is required to become an exercise physiologist. Professional certification is optional but highly recommended, and is attainable through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-CEP) and Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) levels; and the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP). at the Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) level. 

The BLS reports that as of May 2021, exercise physiologists working in the United States earn a mean annual wage of $54,030. 

Coach and Scout

The jobs of coaches and scouts involve monitoring athletes to determine their eligibility for competitions and teams. They providing physical training and nutrition guidance as well as advice on technique to athletes in preparation for competitions and joining teams. Coaches and scouts may work for schools, professional and amateur sports teams, fitness centers and the like. 

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is usually necessary for coaches and scouts. Knowledge about the sport or game on which you wish to concentrate is also vital to becoming a scout or coach. The BLS notes that coaches and scouts earn a mean annual wage of $50,550 as of May 2021.